We know the story about Jonah. God tabbed Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh that they should repent or incur the judgment of God. But, Jonah refused to heed the leadership of God. After all, he hated the Assyrians because they were so cruel. He was concerned that the preaching of repentance would cause them to repent, and God would be merciful to them. He wanted God to judge them. So, he “rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord” by way of passage on a ship.
At one point, the ship encountered a violent storm, so that “the ship was like to be broken.” Eventually, Jonah confessed to the shipmaster that the problem of the storm was because of him. Jonah suggested that they throw him in the sea “so that the sea be calm unto you.”
Nonetheless, it was Jonah who had initiated the problem because of his stubborn resistance to God’s will.
It is no secret that we all have problems. Some problems we cannot help — they just are. But, many times the problems we have are of our own creation, and the reason is because we stubbornly resist the will of God.
Consider the problems that result from us doing something we know we should not do, or problems that occur when we live in a way we should not live. It would be different if we did not know better. But, with many issues involving the moral and the spiritual, God has revealed His will. We should not be surprised about having problems when we go against God’s will.
This is the first part of having proper perspective about having problems.
But, there is another perspective to gain matter as well. For this we return to the experience that Jonah had.
When Jonah was thrown into the sea, he encountered another problem. The thing to note is that it was not necessarily a problem of his making. Rather, it was God who created the problem involving a “great fish.” Says the Scripture, “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.”
Yes, God created a problem to deal with the problem Jonah had created. And, the same is true involving us — God creates problems to deal with problems we create. That is one thing that the story and experience of Jonah teaches us. It gives certain perspective, for sure.
The question is, “Why does God do it?” There are several clear answers to consider.
First, God creates problems to deal with the problems we create to get our attention. There is usually a measure of acceptability with the problems we create. For Jonah, he could have floated for a while. He could have swum for a while. He could have found something buoyant, which could have sustained him for a while. Perhaps he considered that all was not lost.
But, perspective changed when he was ingested by the problem God created for him—-that great fish. Jonah described it as the “belly of hell.” It appeared to Jonah as though God had “cast him out of His sight.” Regardless, the fish belly was apparently harder for him to endure.
If need be, consider if God is trying to get your attention with something.
Second, God creates problems to deal with the problems we create to give us a sense of being confined. Jonah certainly felt confined, for he described being “compassed to the soul…the depth closed me round about…the earth with her bars was about me.”
Third, God creates problems to deal with the problems we create to get us to pray. Jonah lamented, “I cried by reason of mine affliction…” Sometimes we do not go to God in prayer until problems become unbearable.
It was only when in the belly of that great fish did Jonah act to deal correctly with the problem he had created in the first place. He confessed. He repented. He committed. He relented to do the will of God.
If you find that you might be swallowed up in the belly of some fish, do the same.
Pastor Ron Branch lives in Mason County and is pastor of Hope Baptist Church, Middleport, Ohio. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.